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Andrea's column: Questions and more questions

Do you ever wonder why you kept something? There must have been a reason you hung on to it, but what was it? That happened to me last week. I had some papers, notebooks and magazines stacked on one side of the nightstand and decided instead of moving everything aside when I wanted to dust, I would go through them and see what could be thrown out.

I have a habit of making lists and writing reminders on 5 by 7 note cards, setting them aside and forgetting about them. There were lots of those. And scads of paper napkins with phone numbers but no names. One piece of paper intrigued me. Notations from an Oprah show that ran during the final season.

Why had I jotted down information from a segment on nuns? I wondered as I read both sides of the paper. It's not as if I am ignorant about the subject. I did, after all, spend 13 years in Catholic schools being taught by the Benedictines, Ursulines and Sisters of Saint Joseph.

As I recall, the interviewer visited different convents and asked the younger women why they had joined. Why they took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. One had joined an order that takes a vow of silence. It reminded me of the required retreats that were part of my high school years. Not talking for a weekend was impossible for me but this sister said she now "loves the silence."

Another said many parents are upset when a daughter tells them of her intention to leave the secular world and lead a life dedicated to God. Until I heard her say it, I had forgotten that I, too, once thought of becoming a nun. It was during my freshman year of high school. I was home for a weekend from the all-girls' Catholic boarding I attended and dropped the bombshell on my mother.

Mom didn't miss a beat. "Over my dead body!" she said. She needn't have worried. Towards the end of that year I was suspended for breaking the rule that dictated no shirt should be un-tucked from a skirt. Not long after, my parents received a notice saying I should matriculate at a different school the following year. My ardor for the religious life fizzled fast.

During my senior year of high school, a classmate announced her intention to enter the convent. I would have expected other students to heed the calling but not this one. That summer, my mother decided we should have a going away luncheon for my friend.

Mom planned the menu which included a full sheet cake from Wuollet's bakery. "God bless you" was written in the center of the cake. Surrounding that was a full replica of a rosary. Every bead, plus a cross.

After the meal, Mom began to cut the cake. We all lined up to get our piece and as the guest of honor reached the front of the line, we heard Mom whisper in her ear, "It's not too late to change your mind.

Mom, who converted to Catholicism to marry my dad, couldn't understand why a young woman would want to be a nun. Choose that life over marriage and children. Or even a career, which in 1965 was being whispered about as an option for women. Maybe I couldn't understand it, either. Maybe that's why I kept the notes from Oprah's show. Who knows?